Energy minister 'fully behind' National Grid


Michael Fallon: "I can assure you, the lights are not going to go out"

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The government says energy minister Michael Fallon is "fully behind" a National Grid consultation that could see big businesses paid to cut their energy usage in times of shortage.

Last night Mr Fallon appeared to dismiss the proposal in an interview on the BBC's Newsnight programme.

It followed a warning from energy regulator Ofgem that the risk of power cuts has increased in the UK.

Despite that the government has emphasised "the lights won't go out".

Electricity network owner National Grid has suggested large consumers, such as big shops and factories, could be asked to lower use between 16:00 and 20:00 on weekdays in the winter.

Ofgem also suggested keeping some mothballed power plants in reserve in case of emergencies.

"This does not mean that disruption is imminent or likely, but Ofgem, [the Department of Energy and Climate Change] and ourselves believe it appropriate to consider what measures could be taken in case margins deteriorate further," National Grid said.

In a statement, DECC said Mr Fallon "is fully behind Ofgem and National Grid's consultations which are about whether they should take the prudent step of extending their existing services in the context of possible tightening in the supply margin in the middle of the decade".


Can it be right to ask businesses to close to keep the lights on for the rest of us? That's what is being proposed by National Grid.

There is no compulsion. No rationing. Instead medium and large firms will be paid to reduce their electricity demand.

The National Grid says this would be a last resort to be used on winter evenings when temperatures plunge and demand soars.

It is also proposing to pay some electricity generators to keep mothballed plants ready to provide power. The Grid accepts that these new provisions sit outside its "usual system operator role" and are likely to modestly increase household bills.

But some industrial users may reflect that if the only way to keep the lights on is to shut down factories and businesses then government energy policy can't be working.

'Lights stay on'

"One option, if the need arose, would be for companies to voluntarily enter into agreements to fire up currently mothballed power stations or for large users to reduce their demand, in return for which they would receive payment," it said.

"This is an extension of what already happens in the power market. There is no compulsion and it is not rationing.

"We are confident that, with Ofgem and Grid having all the tools at their disposal, the lights will stay on."

In an interview on Newsnight, Mr Fallon appeared to dismiss the idea of paying big users to cut back.

When asked if there was any truth to reports that big factories and businesses would be asked to cut their energy use in 2015, Mr Fallon replied: "No".

"The latest [Ofgem] assessment has shown that the position is slightly worse than the previous assessment last year.

"The regulator Ofgem has got to make sure, with all the tools at its disposal - bringing some mothball plant back in action and back on line - that the lights stay on and they will."

In an assessment released on Thursday, Ofgem said spare electricity production capacity in the UK could fall to 2% by 2015, increasing the risk of blackouts.

The watchdog said more investment in power generation was needed to protect consumers.

It said: "Ofgem's analysis indicates a faster than anticipated tightening of electricity margins toward the middle of this decade."

The global financial crisis, tough emissions targets, the UK's increasing dependency on gas imports and the closure of ageing power stations were all contributing to the heightened risk of shortages, Ofgem said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    we need to go back to state ownership all are utilities are foreign owned!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    Renewables are the only energy future

    Not at all true. "Renewables" will one day run out. They are all driven either by the Sun or by radiactivity in the Earth. Nuclear fusion will not just outlast the Sun, but also the heat death of the rest of the universe. If we develop fusion then the last light in the universe will someday be on some human colony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    "The resons for not moving to green power are becoming crazier by the day! What next? Are wind turbines going to suck up all of the wind in the world?"

    The reason the man-made-global-warming madness is so prevalent is because it's replaced communism as a way of blaming and punishing "the rich" for one's own vague feelings of guilt and insecurity. It tries to make victims of us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    It is not in the interests of the mostly foreign owned utilities, (Electricity, gas and water), to have stable supplies, as this would affect their extortionate profits. As to the wind lobby, there is too much vested interest in bloated land rentals and energy tariffs. Keep the old systems until new ones are properly viable and stop paying huge subsidies to fat green energy cats and lobbyists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    We certainly need to get smarter on our use of electricity. For example the company I work for (400+ PCs in my location alone) insist that our PCs are left on overnight and weekends "for IT security updates". Power stations can't just turned on and off so this just adds to the peak load requirement which has to be met, which is a horrendous waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    540.A J D F

    ...Saving energy will not help here. "W" and "Wh" are not the same thing.
    Funny, I would have thought so. What do you suggest? that we get more engery greedy so the engery companies can fleece even more?

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    They're just softening us up for more price rises.

    First they say there are going to be cuts. Next they will say there won't be cuts as long as we pay more.

    Finally the energy company directors will get huge salary increases and bonuses for "saving" the situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    The resons for not moving to green power are becoming crazier by the day! What next? Are wind turbines going to suck up all of the wind in the world?

    No, they just produce hardly any electricity and destroy what we have left of a natural environment in this country. Other than that they are the perfect solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    Over fifteen years ago we were saying in the Electricity Supply Industry that we needed to give the go-ahead to new nuclear plants otherwise the lights would go out by about 2015.

    So this is absolutely no surprise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    Funny that this is suddenly making the news as fracking is being discussed .....

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    Ofgem’s warning and the use of fracking indicate that the overpopulated energy greedy UK is getting increasingly desperate to keep its unsustainable lifestyle going. Renewables are the only energy future and fossil fuels are becoming more expensive and quickly disappearing into history. We need to vote for a government that understands that....not the Tories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    "power providers are attempting to force HIGHER prices & government REFUSES, hence delay in building"
    Why can't you see the absurdity of GOVERNMENT negotiating energy prices? Would you be happy with the govt negotiating on your behalf for your bread, car, TV, iPods, beer?? If you have a competitive market, the profit motivation works FOR you. Why do people want to be VICTIMS these days?

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    As say of Government

    "If you think the problems we create are bad - just wait until you see our solutions"

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    The idea of inconsistency, uncertainty, randomness of wind power is completely rejected by the recent National Grid report. You can find a quick summary here:

    The resons for not moving to green power are becoming crazier by the day! What next? Are wind turbines going to suck up all of the wind in the world?

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    What have the politicians been doing? This should have been one of their first priorities. When, oh when, will we get a government that is even slightly competent?

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    "Energy Minister Michael Fallon .... told BBC Two's Newsnight programme: "I can assure you the lights are not going to go out."

    Well: that's pretty much put the kaibosh on that then....
    I shall rig up a dynamo to the TV so I can watch him on Newsnight "refuting" that he ever said it, as the missus pedals furiously to keep the set on...

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    My employers spent several million pounds lagging the building in aluminium and six inch thick insulation in order to prove their "green" credentials. The result of this, combined with our 1960's heating system, is a building so hot that every office sits with its windows wide open all year round! Look around any city and you will see similar examples of mind blowing energy waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    518.Charlie Farley
    You only have to drive round town at 3am in the morning to see where all this engery is wasted.

    Energy is not power. We face an energy crisis on a timescale of decades. We face a power crisis on a timescale of 2-3 years. We need more capacity in *power* generation and we need it yesterday. Saving energy will not help here. "W" and "Wh" are not the same thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    Re nationalisation: how would giving an incompetent government MORE responsibility solve anything? We need to do privatisation right - give communities the freedom to handle energy themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    all the lefties shouting for nationisation and reopening the pits haven't a clue.
    I work with what is left of the coal industry and it is as big a joke today as it always has been. £6000 pw fiddling overtime & bonuses, utter waste & a 70's dinosaur mentality. Blame the unions not the government. I for one will not pay tax to line the pocket of yet another public sector bottomless pit.


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